In December 2018, I began my 21-hour journey from Boston to Singapore to embark on a two-year international assignment. Until this point, my career had been built on corporate communications roles, working at my company’s U.S. headquarters.
In my new role, I would be responsible for building the company’s reputation through digital media in Asia Pacific (APAC), including Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, The Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.
In APAC, I spent a lot of time listening and learning to get a full understanding of the current online activities that were either diluting, damaging or improving the company’s reputation in each country. From there, it was my job to identify how to harmonize digital content creation and optimize social media channels to drive consistency in alignment with global brand principles.
This experience has changed the way I view communications in three ways:
Can FEAR and FAILURES be part of a learning process? With all that has been happening, thisseems to be a good time for the last of my three-part series. As a brief recap from my previous posts, the series started with Why I chose CPS to pursue my dream!, then I shared Unlocking Opportunities! And the journey continues…
In my final quarter at CPS, I focused my energies on the job search process. I spoke with many recruiters, sent many emails, applied to many jobs, and gave many interviews. Sound familiar? When I hear and see success stories, I keep in mind that I am only seeing the tip of the iceberg – there is so much underneath. Trust me, the learning during the process is powerful, embrace it!
Moreover, I love this quote from Robert Stevenson, “keep your fears to yourself, but share your courage with others.” Hence, I decided to explore how my fears were overcome by my courage and how my failures generatedmotivation. By taking an inventory of my broad experiences, skills, and competencies, I prophesied that my career development goals are attainable.
Starting in March of 2020, I have been consuming an overwhelming amount of online content in an attempt to track the labyrinth of chaos we are facing in our world today. While writing this piece, there were times that I felt paralyzed and unable to bring my words to light.
My struggle was mitigated when Professor Patty shared her observation of my recent educational experiences. She described it as a Journey of Resilience. I had never thought of myself as Resilient. Yet, upon reflection, she might be right.
Researching resiliency – My perspective
Before proclaiming myself as resilient, I had to learn more about the concept. I read a journal on resilience definitions, theory, and challenges, along with interdisciplinary perspectives. The most striking perspective on resilience is that it can be in different aspects of life. One could be culturally, biologically, emotionally, academically, and/or professionally resilient (Southwick, Bonanno, Masten, Brick, Yehuda, 2014).
How are communication leaders around the world responding to the Covid-19 pandemic? What do they see as challenges? And how will they adapt to a post-pandemic environment?
These are some of the topics we discussed with Artemio Garza, who leads Egon Zehnder’s Communication Officers practice in North America. Artemio is a core member of Egon Zehnder’s Marketing and Digital practices. Based in Miami, his special focus is on multi-unit retail, consumer goods, and private equity companies.
Carl Zangerl (CZ): Tell us about what your job at Egon Zehnder entails.
Artemio Garza (AG): Our mission at Egon Zehnder is to create a better world through great leadership. I have a marketing and communication background myself, and I advise companies on how to structure their communication functions and help identify people who can assume leadership roles.
How do stereotypes influence our behavior at work? Are our instincts accurate? A recent article in the online magazine Swissinfo described some of the challenges, large and small, amusing and potentially embarrassing, of working as an ‘incomer’ in a Swiss company. Would you expect to be formal with Swiss colleagues? Think deadlines are important? Expect consensus must be reached in meetings? For those of us in communication roles, deciphering the cultural cues and office codes is especially critical. As my colleague, Patty Goodman, often reminds me, we need to be aware of our biases, keen observers, and learn as much as we can about cultural values.
So what are the answers to the questions posed in the Swissinfo article?
Northeastern flipped the script on its annual State of the University celebration, presenting an engaging new format in which President Joseph E. Aoun and other university leaders and students delivered remarks from locations across the country and abroad while underscoring Northeastern’s foundational strengths: global, diverse, innovative, entrepreneurial, and experiential.
Kicking off the first stage of my professional career clashes with mixed feelings that emerged with the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in my hometown, Puerto Rico. Among all the anxiety that the current humanitarian crisis has unfolded, I’ve learned how invaluable the power of empathy can be. Caring for others is a human thing, regardless of whether you’re American or not.
As an eager storyteller, I also realized how impactful it can be to listen to stories from people living the disaster in depth. A crisis shouldn’t be addressed, it should be narrated. Stories help us to draw what’s invisible. In this particular case, sharing what the crisis’ victims have to say is the key for them to engage with the rest of the world. It also justifies the imperatives of the essential aid they need. In addition, the narrative unveils the lessons we all can gain from this crisis to turn them into our legacy.
Puerto Ricans are characterized by our willingness to always extend our hand to others. Today, my fellow citizens from la “Isla del Encanto” (as we call it) or the land of “Despacito” (as others might know it as well) are now the ones in need. We’ll be grateful to get any form of support – but moreover, we’d be happy to have you listen to any story we have to tell.
This seems to be the ‘Era of Networking.’ Whether the purpose is job hunting, recruiting, or exploring shared interests, networking is often the key to to finding a good connection. Over the past couple of years, I have been placing more focus on my network. Not just adding names, but developing relationships with those whom I add to my network. With the launching of our new Cross-Cultural Communication concentration and graduate certificate, I have also become more aware of the influence cross-cultural communication has in networking.
In a previous posting, I noted the importance of participating in conferences for self-development and networking. Upon reflection, I would like to also share how employing cross-cultural communication can generate amazing networking opportunities. First, what do I mean by the term ‘cross-cultural communication’? Being open to conversations with people who might be different from oneself, and being genuinely curious about other’s cultures. The following three examples highlight the benefits of building a global network.
In 2014, while I was participating at the International Transformational Learning Conference at Columbia University, there was a partnering activity during the opening session. I happened to be sitting in the back row with one other person, whom I’ll refer to as KL. Despite our cultural differences, we had a wonderful conversation about our current career and research paths. Since KL lives in Hong Kong, and I reside in Greater Boston, we didn’t think our paths would cross, but we decided to stay in touch anyway. As it turned out, I had the opportunity to teach in a Northeastern program in Vietnam in 2015 and was able to visit KL in Hong Kong. The outcome of our cross-cultural networking was an intergenerational research project in collaboration with a business owner in Vietnam — a project we jointly presented at the International Transformational Learning Conference in 2016.
This pattern repeated itself at a conference last year. While attending the June 2016 International Communication Association in Japan, I engaged in conversation with another attendee, ABR, who happened to be sitting alone during a lunch break. I learned that ABR was working on an academic integrity project with her university in Australia — a topic I’m also interested in. As newcomers to Japan, we enjoyed investigating the local sights and discussing shared research interests. As fate would have it, I visited Australia in September and ended up connecting with ABR in her hometown. As a result, we’re considering several areas for future collaboration.
Over time, I’ve become more intentional in the networking process. For example, while participating in a June 2017 Global Studies Conference in Singapore, I listened to a global mobility presentation by MC. After her presentation, I introduced myself and found that we had much in common. When I mentioned that I’d be traveling to India in August, MC invited me to be a guest lecturer at her university while visiting her in Jodhpur. Another connection, another cross-cultural relationship, another opportunity to collaborate.
In closing, I recognize that my personality is open to adventure. Yet, I will disclose that I am an introvert by nature and pseudo-extrovert by practice. Hence, I would suggest that the examples I provided are more about an interest in communicating with others through a cross-cultural lens, rather than a function of personality. The strategy I employed was one being open to sharing with people from very different cultural backgrounds. There can be a risk in this kind of networking; not all conversations will end up with a strong connection. But remember the old adage: Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
In June, I flew to China with Northeastern University’s mascot, the Husky, to represent our program at the Beijing Northeastern University (NU) Alumni Community Speaker Event. I presented on my global citizenship research and shared the contributing cultural artifact, the Traveling Global Citizenship Canvas. This canvas is approximately 40 feet in length covered front and back with NU student and alumni descriptions about the values of global citizenship. With Husky by my side, we sought to absorb some local culture and gain a broader perspective on our alumnus home in Beijing and Chengdu, China.
My first impression of Beijing was the dichotomy of the space. The roads seemed so wide, yet the traffic was so heavy. However, an efficient public transportation system led into the heart of the city, Tiananmen Square. Immediately to the right when rising from the underground system, we found a boulevard filled with shops and restaurants. The magnificent city gates set the tone for grandeur and Asian antiquity. Husky wasn’t in Boston anymore. We entered Tiananmen Square through a security check point, and were surprised by the vastness of the square. The China National Museum sat strikingly on one side of the square opposite government buildings and the 14th century Palace Museum, also known as the Forbidden City, seemingly filled the opposite end of the square. Within this square, there was a variety of architectural designs from across the ages.
Despite the heat, the gorgeous flowers and landscape tricked the mind to continue onward to discover more. Husky and I forged toward the Forbidden City, the imperial palace for the Ming and Qing Dynasties until 1911. No matter the day, thousands of people wait in line to visit it. One truly needs days to see the over 8,000 rooms in the Forbidden City, but we only had time for a glimpse of the guard quarters near the entrance. As I reflect, I can only imagine how our alumni must have felt moving to Boston for their educational pursuits; Boston is a very compact city compared to this spacious city.
After appreciating Beijing’s ancient splendor, it was time for Husky and me to talk with the young Northeastern University alumni.
These alumni were forming a new, local community with graduates from across Northeastern University. We shared ideas about the concept of global citizenship and how we might consider ourselves as developing layers of cultures in the midst of our global society. Many alumni voiced how they grew to love the culture in Boston. Although they may have experienced some challenges with culture shock, they valued learning about how to live in America.
Husky and I headed on another adventure in China to visit our own alumni and my past student, Mingming Xu ’17. Mingming was living in Chengdu in the Sichuan Province, a region noted for pandas and spicy hot pot food. Husky and I experienced wonderful hospitality, amazing food, and fascinating cultural sights. Click on the video link to share some of our marvelous adventures.
Mingming was excited about her new role in a start-up and contributed her confidence and professional knowledge for the role to completing her MS COC.
Even though it was just a glimpse of China, traveling outside of our Western city increased my understanding of my students and their Eastern metropolis. Although Husky lightheartedly offered an amusing perspective on my experience, I was most grateful for the generosity I received from our alumni. From a global citizenship view, I was impressed with how our alumni were able to recognize the cultural differences between the East and West, yet value those differences and make a home in both cities.